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Travis Briscoe

THE INVISIBLE MAN

PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDER

Clyde Christensen COLTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

SITTING ATOP PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL’S PASSING RECORDS

W W W. S P O R T S S P E C T R U M . C O M


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RICHARD WOLOWICZ / GETTY IMAGES

CONTENTS FEATURES

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CLOSEUP: Clyde Christensen

It’s been a trying season for Colts offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, but his past and his faith puts everything into perspective. BY STEPHEN COPELAND JIM MCISAAC / GETTY IMAGES

CLOSEUP: Anthony Calvillo

He’s practically unheard of, but Anthony Calvillo is one of the best professional quarterbacks ever, recently passing Brett Favre in career passing yardage. BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

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Travis Briscoe: Born Again to Ride ANDY WATSON / PBR

Professional Bull Riding star Travis Briscoe was on his deathbed a near-decade ago, but unfathomable healing brought him back to bull riding. BY STEPHEN COPELAND

SPORTS YAPP: Sports Spectrum podcast host Bryce Johnson interviews

voice of the Arizona Cardinals Dave Pasch in his three-time-a-week podcast called “SPORTS YAPP.” Listen here.

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ANOTHER ANGLE

Staff writer Stephen Copeland spends a couple days with Indianapolis Colts ex-punter Hunter Smith, highlighting the humorous side of faith and sports.

SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2011

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Clyde Christensen IT’S BEEN A TRYING YEAR FOR COLTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CLYDE CHRISTENSEN, BUT HIS PAST PUTS EVERYTHING IN PERSPECTIVE.

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ifty million weren’t as lucky as Clyde Christensen. The Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator—midst the fame of winning a Super Bowl in 2007, working hand in hand with Peyton Manning and spearheading an organization with Tony Dungy—won’t ever forget that simple truth. He was one of the lucky ones. --It was 4 o’clock on a Monday afternoon in 1956 when Richard Christensen finally got the call he had been waiting for. It was the Los Angeles County Adoption Agency. “We have a child for you,” they said. It’d been a long road. Seven years before, there was the initial “shock” of learning about his wife, June’s, physical troubles that prevented her from having children. And then there was the seemingly endless halfdecade long search for a child. But finally, this: Clyde, their son, laying in a crib at the adoption agency. Perhaps the sight was worth the wait. The next morning, on his way to his church office in San Pedro, Calif., Richard was so overcome with joy that he had to pull over on the side of the road. Says Richard in his frail, gravelly voice, “You all of a sudden realize, ‘I’m a father.’” Whoever Clyde’s biological father and mother were, they’ll never know. But judging from Clyde’s stellar high school and college football careers, it’s fair to assume that one or both of them were athletic. Clyde excelled at Royal Oak High School in his hometown of Covina, Calif., then earned All-America status at Fresno City Junior College before lettering two years at the University of North Carolina. Richard says his son was a “shifty and fast” quarterback but was too short to excel at the D1 or NFL level. “He was shorter than Doug Flutie,” he jokes. Following school, Clyde began to climb the collegecoaching ladder. Ole Miss. ETSU. Temple. East Carolina. And the list goes on. But his coaching career changed when he brushed shoulders with someone 20 years ago: Tony Dungy. Bobby Jones, one of the most respected defenders in NBA history who happens to be one of Clyde’s best friends, asked Clyde to volunteer at a coaching clinic in Hilton Head, SC…to ironically help him coach basketball. Dungy was there for football. The three of them met one another, and the rest, of course, is history. “Right after that, Tony joined us at my house along

with Clyde. I remember doing Bible trivia together, and Tony knew all the answers,” Jones jokes. In 1996, Dungy offered Clyde a position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he hasn’t left the NFL since. He followed Dungy to Indianapolis and attained the epitome of football success with a Super Bowl victory in 2007 as the Colts’ wide receiver’s coach. “It’s all been the journey,” Clyde says. “There have been Super Bowl wins. There have been Super Bowl losses. We’ve buried parents. And we’ve buried sons. It hasn’t all been just wins and losses. It’s bigger than that.” --Clyde’s football resume is impressive. But as he says, it’s bigger than that. A perfect example is All Pro Dad, an organization that Clyde and Dungy founded in 1997 where they apply Biblical principles to fatherhood. The organization boasts over 1,000 chapters at public schools, a 70,000-person email to fathers and 53 NFL spokesmen that altogether make an immeasurable impact on families across the nation. “(Tony and I) are just two guys that want to do it the way God’s called us to do it,” Clyde says. “That’s what I hope that organization is about. It’s about men. It’s about having a commitment.” JIM MCISAAC / GETTY IMAGES His passion for All Pro Dad, perhaps, spurns from his past—when God, he says, all-knowingly placed him in a family. “I don’t ever remember a day in my life not knowing that Christ was the center of our homes, the center of our lives, our creator and all of those things,” Clyde says. “I don’t remember a day not knowing Jesus Christ as being real, personal and being involved in the day-to-day stuff, and for that I’m extremely grateful.” And to think that, in reality, Clyde, the product of a teenage pregnancy, was lucky just to be born, nonetheless adopted into a God-fearing family. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Clyde says. “For me to think that God said, ‘Hey, here is the family I want to put Clyde into and take care of all those circumstances with his hand, it touches me. It’s hard to comprehend.” Clyde Christensen was one of the lucky ones. “Since then I always share that 50 million didn’t get the chance I got,” says Clyde with glassy eyes. “It’s not just one life with abortion. This world would be fine without me, it wouldn’t lose anything, but without my three girls (Rachel, Rebecca and Ruth), it would have missed something…It’s not just one life. It’s generations. I’m touched each time I look at my kids...that some teenage gal gave me a chance.” - STEPHEN COPELAND

JOE ROBBINS / GETTY IMAGES


NFL CLOSEUP

S P O R T S S P E C T R U M ~ FA L L D I G I M A G 2 0 1 1

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CFL CLOSEUP

Anthony Calvillo YOU’VE PROLLY NEVER HEARD OF ANTHONY CALVILLO, BUT HE’S ONE OF THE BEST QUARTERBACKS TO PLAY THE GAME

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n Oct. 10, Anthony Calvillo stood on a football field thousands of miles and a nation away from where he grew up in California. He listened to the cheers and applause from the 23,960 fans in attendance at Montreal’s Molson Stadium on that Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. The cheers grew loud as people stood, yelled and clapped. Then there was silence. Several more times cheers erupted and silence followed. The on and off cheering was caused as fans listened to football greats give congratulatory messages via the stadium’s video board. A message would play and the cheering would stop. The message would finish, and the cheering would pick back up again. Fans listened with reverence and a seeming giddiness to messages by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, Pro Football and Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, ESPN anchor Chris Berman and CFL legendary quarterback Damon Allen (Marcus Allen’s brother and holder of many of the records that Calvillo has broken this season). The broken records – that’s why fans were cheering and the reason congratulations were being given. Calvillo had just become pro football’s all-time leader in passing yards, to replace Allen at the top of that list. Yes, Calvillo has passed for more yards than Brett Favre, Marino, Moon, Allen and anyone in the Pro Football or Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Now in his 18th season and at 39 years of age, Calvillo is finally gaining some notice in the U.S. (Sports Spectrum was actually the first of the major U.S. sports magazines to write about Calvillo as he neared the record. We featured him in the 2009 Fall issue, and he talked about his salvation in 2000, his wife Alexia’s battle with cancer in 2007, his record chase, his Grey Cup titles and his CFL player of the year awards. He now has led Montreal to eight CFL Super Bowl games, or Grey Cup as they call it, and three Grey Cup titles). ESPN’s Chris Berman recently featured Calvillo in his Two-minute Drill after Calvillo broke the all-time passing yards mark on Oct. 10, and famous L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote a beautiful column after Calvillo set the mark. That was the most recent of his accomplishments this season, though. At last season’s Grey Cup, the CFL’s Super Bowl, he set the championship game record for career yards with 2,470, and he also set the record for most championship game starts, with eight before leading Montreal to its second straight title and third under Calvillo. The records didn’t stop, though. On July 15, against the Toronto Argonauts, Calvillo set the CFL record for career touchdowns (395), and on Aug. 4 he set the CFL record for career completions (5,159), again against Toronto. But it was the Oct. 10 game that gained him exposure in American news media and recognition at a Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey game. On that Oct. 10 day, as time wound down in the third quarter, he threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jamel Richardson and became pro football’s all-time leader in passing yards. It helped the Alouettes beat Toronto 29-19 and clinch a playoff berth. After last week’s game, which ended the regular season, Calvillo has amassed 73,412 career yards, and he led the league this season with 5,251 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. (Montreal hosted the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the first round of the CFL playoffs on Sunday, Nov. 13, and he is eyeing another title). But, as he acknowledged in the 2009 Sports Spectrum article: championships, records and anything material didn’t seem to matter in February of 2000 when he was contemplating the deep issues of life. “That’s when I really committed myself to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Calvillo says. “A good friend of mine, his wife passed away and we were talking about life and death. It started me thinking, ‘What do I have to look forward to?’” “I thought it was God touching my heart at the time and to commit myself to Him and bring me closer to Him.” His growth as a player has mirrored his growth as a follower of Christ. “I remember challenging him years ago because he was known as a student of the playbook,” says Montreal chaplain Tom Paul. “I said, “AC,” you’re known throughout the league for your thorough preparation of the playbook, if God has given us the Bible as His playbook for life, isn’t it a lot more important in preparing and studying the Bible?’ And Anthony took that challenge. First thing in the morning and at night, he’s in the scriptures.” - BRETT HONEYCUTT


SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2011 CRAIG KLEM / GETTY IMAGES

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He’s blue! He’s blue!” George cried, as they wheeled his son, Travis, into the operating room. “In the name of Jesus! In the name of Jesus! In the name of Jesus!” screamed Travis’ mother, Debbie, who was signing documents at the nurse’s desk. Perhaps that’s all you can say when your 16-yearold son is on his deathbed—when a typical Thanksgiving weekend is transformed into a traumatizing nightmare—when your son is mistakenly rushed to the operating room without his oxygen tank, his life source. The doctors and nurses quickly retrieved the oxygen tank, which, at the very least, prolonged what little life he had left. “I need to talk to you,” said the anesthesiologist before the surgery. 8

SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2011

Debbie Fincher looked at him. “You have a very sick child, and I don’t think he’s going to make it through surgery. If he does, he won’t live long after that.” Debbie returned to the waiting room crying hysterically, harrowed by the hellish reality that the next purchase for Travis, instead of Christmas presents like every other sophomore in high school, may be a coffin. “They said—they said he’s not going to—make it,” she choked, her body convulsing uncontrollably and slowly crumbling to the floor as if every joint was collapsing. Her brother grabbed her. Then he slapped her in the face. “I don’t want to ever hear words like that come out of your mouth,”


born again to ride PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDING STAR TRAVIS BRISCOE WAS ON HIS DEATHBED A NEAR-DECADE AGO. THAT’S WHEN UNFATHOMABLE HEALING WHICH CAN ONLY BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE DIVINE BROUGHT HIM BACK TO BULL RIDING...AND SURPRISINGLY BETTER THAN EVER BY STEPHEN COPELAND

ANDY WATSON / PBR

he said sternly. “God is not going to let him die.”

When Wrestling Goes Wrong

“It drove me nuts because I was the one that did it. I just kept thinking, ‘What the hell did I do?’” After spending Thanksgiving in Colorado Springs with his mother, Travis went to his dad’s house for the weekend in Edgewood, New Mexico, just east of Albuquerque. Travis, his father George Briscoe and his cousin Levi were wrestling in the living room like they always do, when all 185 pounds of George and 140 of Levi landed on the delicate 120-pound frame of Travis—and primarily on his cheekbone. W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

It hurt, of course. But Travis was a bull rider—and a good one at that, acclaimed by his peers and expected to make a dent on the Professional Bull Riding Tour whenever he turned 18. His opponent was usually a 2000-pound four-legged creature. A measly wrestling wound was nothing. The next morning, George went into Travis’ room to wake him up to do school work (Travis was home schooled by Debbie). “I don’t feel good,” Travis said. “Alright, let’s take the day off from school,” George replied. The next morning, George went into his room again. “Travis, get up and take a shower.” “Okay,” Travis said. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2011

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Several minutes later, George went in the bathroom and saw Travis, soaking wet, standing in front of the heater. “C’mon buddy, put you’re clothes on.” “Nah, I need to get a shower first.” (Pause. Panic. Confusion.) “Alright, you’re going to the doctor.” If Travis’ life was an allegorical bull ride, he was about to get tossed and then trampled. Three days after the wrestling accident, his skin was a sickly yellow, his body and cheek were swollen, and he was glued to a hospital bed unable to communicate, breathe naturally or think clearly. All because of a sinus infection. Yes, a sinus infection.

He unknowingly had one before the wrestling incident, and when George’s hip landed on the side of his face, the infection spread like fire, infiltrating his eye socket and making his forehead swell like a baseball. Only a few days before, he was enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with his mother’s side of the family in Colorado Springs. And now this. “But they (the doctors) weren’t reacting like it was an emergency situation,” Debbie says. “They were letting him die.” Debbie knew something wasn’t right. So she contacted the chief of staff at the hospital and pressured the doctors to perform surgery that night. Soon, she got her way. Travis went into surgery that evening, the doctors believing it’d be his last night on earth. “They basically told me he was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it,” Debbie says. “That was the first horrible moment.”

Healing Begins

“There’s a miracle in here. I can feel the presence of God.” The second worst moment came when Travis was declared septic, meaning that his entire body had become an infection. They put him on three antibiotics. Nothing helped. They performed ultrasounds on him so they could see his organs. They couldn’t even see them because of the swelling. The first surgery had gone well, considering they expected him to die. But even after they removed the infection from his eye, it continued to spread throughout the rest of his body. It became so powerful that his body could no longer contain it. It quit fighting. “I remember sitting in that hospital room and just watching the clock go by,” Travis says. “I didn’t know if it was ever going to end—if I would ever come out of this.” Again, the doctors told George and Debbie that their son would die. But they’d been through it before. And as Debbie says, they weren’t the “type of people who take ‘no’ for an answer.” So they said “no” to death, calmed down, started praying and began playing praise music in Travis’ room. That’s when the nurse walked into the room and could sense something supernatural taking place. “There’s a miracle in here,” she said. “I can feel the presence of God.” Travis’ swelling went down the next day.

Death Scare No. 3

“The only way to calm him down was to talk about bull riding.” By the time Christmas rolled around, things were looking up. It wasn’t a normal Christmas, by any means. Fifteen to 20 of his family members gathered in the hospital, like they had been for the last month. “It was the longest month of my life,” says George, who can hardly recall what transpired because of his blurred mental state. But there were positives nonetheless. Travis could once again communicate. And doctors believed they had his infection under control. Still, to be certain, a man named Dr. Ellison spent all of Christmas Day researching Travis’ situation and monitoring him because he didn’t want it to come back. “I’ve been looking at this,” Ellison said. “And I think we’re going to have to do one more surgery. I’m going to clean out the whole cavity.” Two days later, they were preparing to rid the infection once and for all. That morning, however, his surgery was delayed, and Debbie sat patiently at the end of Travis’ bed rubbing his feet. The two of them were talking. Travis was being his goofy self. Debbie was being her loving self. Then Travis kicked Debbie. “Travis! Why did you do that?” Then he did it again. And again. And again. “Something is wrong! Something is wrong!” Debbie screamed. Ellison came in and knew immediately that the infection had gone to his brain, triggering a foray of unpredictable seizures. They performed a CAT scan, rushed him into surgery and Ellison notes that the only thing that comforted Travis during the whole ordeal was talk of bull riding—even though every doctor and nurse knew he’d never be MATT BRENEMAN / BULLSTOCKMEDIA.COM


ANDY WATSON / PBR

able to ride bulls again. But at least in the moment, talk of bull riding calmed him down, allowing Ellison and his team to cut Travis’ forehead open from sideburn to sideburn and enter the brain. “They told me three times during this that he would die,” Debbie remembers. “They also told him he would never ride bulls again. I remember one time, the doctor left the room and Travis said, ‘What will I do if I can’t ride bulls?’ I said, ‘You will ride bulls. We won’t listen to the doctor.’”

Born Again

“Everything I knew before was pretty much gone. I was just waiting for an opportunity, waiting for God to show me what I needed to do—what I had to do. It always came back to bull riding.” April 29 was the first day of Travis Briscoe’s life. The day before, they’d gone to the doctor. Knowing how much Travis loved bull riding—how just the mere mention of the sport breathed life into his dying body five months before—Ellison looked at him and gave him his answer: “I’ll tell you one thing: I won’t ever tell you not to ride bulls.” Two years later, Travis was on the Professional Bull Riding Tour at age 18. In his first event in Grand Rapids, Mich., he finished third; and in his next event, he captured second place in Columbus, Ohio, scoring 92.5 points on “Yellow Jacket,” one of the most ruthless bulls of all time whom he used to dream of riding watching television as a kid. More importantly, he now has a wife, Jessie, and a five-month-old daughter, Bentley Leigh. “Through all of that, the brain surgery and everything—it turned my life and my family’s life 180 degrees in a different direction,” Travis says. “I can’t even explain the feeling I get when I think about it today. God is great—what he’s done in my life and my family’s life. If he would do something like that for me, he’d do it for anybody. “That goes to show how good God’s grace is. I would not have walked W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

out of the hospital if it wouldn’t have been for that. Not only be able to walk again and function, but to be able to do what I love better than before it happened. It’s still amazing to hit rock bottom like that and then be better off than before.” This year has been a struggle for Travis thanks to an ankle injury that required 17 screws and three plates, forcing him to miss the PBR World Finals for the first time in seven years. But perhaps “struggle” is the wrong word. What he went through a near-decade ago—that was a struggle. “I was just kind of down and out the whole season,” Travis says. “But to think and relive everything I went through back then, I realize that this year is nothing. We just believed that God had me in His hands. And six months later, I was riding bulls again.” Six months after surgery, Travis Briscoe was in the bucking shoot. It was April 29th in T or C, New Mexico, his first amateur rodeo since the sinus infection that nearly buried him. The day before, Ellison had cleared him to ride, and now, after a sleepless night and an emotional trip to the stadium, the ride was upon him. “I was just anxious and scared, and just about every emotion I could go through I went through it that day,” Travis says. The bell rang. The gate flew open. Dirt flew up. Seconds flew by. And before he knew it, he heard the 8-second whistle. He was back. “It wasn’t reality until I was actually there,” Travis remembers. “Little did I know, I wasn’t going to start where I left off. I was going to comeback stronger and better than I already was.” The people watching on April 29th had no idea what Travis had been through—no idea he had escaped death three times, no idea he was never supposed to ride bulls again, no idea that this was the first day of his life. No idea that he ordered his helmet six months before. Stephen Copeland is a staff writer at Sports Spectrum magazine. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2011

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SPORTS YAPP B Y B RY C E J O H N S O N

Yappin’ With Voice of the Arizona Cardinals Dave Pasch

BRYCE: What’s the experience been like being in the (broadcasting) booth with Chris Spielman and Urban Meyer this year (on ESPN)? DAVE: It’s my third year with Chris, and we’ve got a real good relationship off the air, and that translates on the air as well. You add Urban in and it’s been seamless. I’ve learned more about football being around these two guys in a month and a half than I think I learned the previous 39 years. It’s just been amazing. BRYCE: When was the last time you’ve been nervous calling a game? DAVE: I certainly was nervous before the Super Bowl three years ago (Cardinals vs. Steelers), like I’ve never been before. Even during the game I was nervous, especially when they got the lead late on the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown. You don’t get that opportunity very often, and I remember saying to myself, “Just enjoy it and appreciate it; you don’t know if you’re ever gonna get back.” BRYCE: What’s it like calling a blowout game? DAVE: It’s hard. The two true tests for a play-by-play announcer: 1) How you handle the big moment. 2) How you handle a

Bryce's Bold bullets 12

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SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2011

BRYCE: What can you tell us about the Bible study you are involved with when you’re on the road Friday nights before the games on Saturdays? DAVE: We’ve been studying the (book of) Mark. We do two chapters a week, and there are about five of us in there. It’s usually right before everyone shuts it down for the night, and we spend about an hour. We built it up, and anyone that wants to come can come. It’s something we all look forward to, and it’s kind of a staple each week where we know that on Friday night after we’ve done our business and done all of our meetings, that’s what’s next on the docket. BRYCE: How important has it been to be in a group like this when it comes to accountability? DAVE: It’s really been a blessing, the guys that God has put with me this year. I think there are more Christians out there in broadcasting than people realize, and sometimes we just don’t ask. When you have other people around you that view things the same way you do it’s much easier to turn away from temptations because you have that accountability. BRYCE: You’ve got a unique testimony, how did you decide to follow Christ? DAVE: I was raised in a Jewish home. I became a Christian about 11 years ago. I did a lot of reading and a lot of research and came to that point where I believed that the Bible was correct, accurate, true, and Christ was who he said he was. And then I had a choice to make.

Whether I was going to believe, repent and follow, or whether I was going to not believe and continue to live the way I was living. I never viewed it as a way out or a way to make me feel better about myself, I viewed it as an eternal decision, and it’s a decision that I need to make. The journey has been fantastic. Bryce Johnson is the host of Sports Spectrum’s podcast “SPORTS YAPP.” Listen at sportsyapp.com.

AARON MAY / SPORTS SPECTRUM

blowout. You’ve still got to engage your analyst, and ask good questions, and you still have to respect the game, and you still have to make it interesting and entertaining and still document the game. I think it’s easy if you get a great game every week, but when you have blowouts, it can be hard to keep the energy up and finding things to discuss to keep the listener entertained.

COURTESY: DAVE PASCH

TAP DRILL

QUICK THOUGHTS ABOUT SPORTS, E N T E R TA I N M E N T, FA I T H , A N D C U LT U R E

I hope it becomes tradition for college basketball games to be played on an aircraft carrier every Veterans Day. Ron Artest has to work even harder not to get ejected from games now that his name is “Metta World Peace”. The Penn State situation was a huge reminder that we can’t put our faith in imperfect people. It’s weird to know that Michael Jordan had to argue against the players during the lockout since he’s an owner now. I was so pumped to meet the legend Joe Gibbs recently.

The Packers will go undefeated. LeSean McCoy is the best running back in the NFL this year. Tim Tebow has a bright future in the NFL. Albert Pujols won’t be back in St. Louis next year. Vince Young will have success as the Eagles quarterback I won’t be surprised to see Brett Favre play in the NFL again.


ANOTHER ANGLE BY STEPHEN COPELAND

Attack of the Wasps

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S P O R T S S P E C T R U M ~ FA L L D I G I M A G 2 0 1 1

I remember thinking, “This guy can punt a football 70 yards, but he can’t squash a resting bug.” We’ll blame it on adrenaline. Yet somehow—and I have no idea how—the vase didn’t break. My only explanation is that Hunter is such a good Christian guy that God extends grace to him in the everyday annoyances of life…like getting a flat tire, dropping a cell phone or swatting a glass vase with a paper epée. The wasps continued to periodically show up one by one throughout the day, and by the time I left there was a minefield of carcasses scattered across his basement floor. The next morning, I got to his house a little early while he was at a Bible study. “Did Hunter tell you about the wasps?” I asked his wife, Jen. “The what?” she asked. “Oh…shoot, he didn’t tell you? Hmmmmmm…I’m gonna go downstairs. Have a nice day Mrs. Smith!” The dreaded wasp situation wasn’t the only funny thing that happened. This column, in fact, can’t contain all of Hunter’s humor over a 17-hour span without a table of contents. Anyway, after a good five hours of discussion on Thursday, we left to go get lunch. “I’ve got a good place for us,” Hunter said. Next thing I knew we were trekking down a winding gravel road in his pickup truck through the Zionsville woods. I looked out the window. It was a dreary and rainy autumn afternoon in Indiana…almost creepy as we journeyed down a rocky road that I promise can’t be found on Google Maps. “Oh my gosh,” I thought to myself. “The Colts ex-punter is going to take me to a dilapidated barn in the middle of a Hoosier cornfield, and he’s going to kill me.” “So where did you grow up in Indy?” Hunter asked. I didn’t hear anything. I was picturing him and Darrin burying my body beneath the soybean crops, then satisfyingly putting their hands on their hips and grinning. “Steve…” “Oh, sorry,” I said. “Um, I grew up in Clayton.” (Clayton is a classic Indiana town on the west side of Indianapolis

composed of two things: corn and hillbillies.) “Clayton!” he exclaimed. “I bought a donkey in Clayton once.” I tried to comprehend his statement. But I struggled. “Well, he did grow up on a 1,000-acre ranch in Texas,” I thought to myself. “I guess a donkey makes sense…maybe?” I shot him a confused look. “You see,” he said. “I wanted to do something different for my son’s birthday party. Everyone gets jungle gyms and cliché stuff like that. So I decided to go on Craigslist and find a donkey for them to ride. I found one, too. It was in Clayton. Paid 100 bucks for it. Right after the party, I put it back on Craigslist.” That’s when I decided I had to write about the guy. Anyone that buys a donkey for 100 bucks is column-worthy. After eating at a hole-in-the-wall apple orchard-type restaurant with the best mashed potatoes and gravy in the Indianapolis area, we went back to Hunter’s house, and he introduced us to one of his new band’s (The Hunter Smith Band) songs. The title: 100 Dollar Donkey. Hunter, of course, was goofy as can be. But he was more than a screwball. He had a heart for God. (Prepare yourself for the first serious paragraph I’ve ever written in my column.) Sure, there were some funny moments on Thursday and Friday. But there were also hours upon hours of encouraging God-centered conversation. I left his house feeling wiser in the Lord and more mature in my faith. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do things the right way. I wanted that joy, that passion, that hunger, that Christlike leadership. Overall, he taught me what it means to have genuine faith. And maybe next time I can teach him how to kill a wasp.

AARON MAY / SPORTS SPECTRUM

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rowing up a Colts fan, I loved punter Hunter Smith. I even listened to his old band “Connersvine” throughout college. And now—even though he’s retired—I love him even more, especially now that I know him. The dude is hilarious. Last Thursday and Friday, I met with him and All Pro Dad’s Darrin Gray to work on a new project in conjunction with Sports Spectrum called “The Jersey Effect.” (We’ll give you more details later.) “Ya know,” Hunter said Thursday morning as we sat in his basement. “If my voice is going to be the main one in this book, it needs to be humorous. I’m a funny guy.” Little did I know… Within 10 minutes of our meeting, I got my first glimpse of Hunter’s humor—when an intruder sent from Satan himself came to stunt our productivity. A wasp. Hunter’s eyes locked onto the critter like a heat-seeking missile. Then he splattered the thing with a thunderous CLAP, sending a message to never invade his domain again. (I think I’ve only seen that look in a man’s eyes one other time in my life. And it was when he and his teammates were playing the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship.) The wasps, however, weren’t intimidated. Merely minutes later, there was another one hovering over our heads, Hunter gradually growing more and more upset as if a burglar was trying to break into his house. Then another came. And another. And before I knew it, I was up out of my seat with a wasp on my back as the Colts ex-punter danced around me swatting at my rear. “I hate these sons of bugs!” he grunted in his Texas drawl. At one point, a wasp landed on a picture frame that sat on the mantel above his fireplace. Hunter withdrew his trusty sword—which was a rolled up piece of paper—took a mighty Albert Pujols-esque swing at the wasp, completely whiffed and accidentally made solid contact with his wife’s decorative vase to the left. The vase came tumbling down and seemingly fell in slow motion as we braced ourselves for the splintering shatter of glass meeting brick.

Stephen Copeland is a staff writer at Sports Spectrum magazine.


November 2011 DigiMag